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Book Review” “Outies,” by Dr. Jennifer Pournelle

January 21, 2011

Dr. Jennifer Pournelle

Dr. Jennifer Pournelle is an Assistant Professor in the School of the Environment at the University of South Carolina. She is a former US Army Intelligence officer and extensive experience and training in archaeology, especially in the Middle East. In addition to a bundle of scholarly articles, she has now written a science fiction novel. It’s set in the universe created by her father, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, and Larry Niven, in the landmark First Contact novel “The Mote In God’s Eye.”

A Motie Engineer

“Outies” is the term used for those humans who live on planets not yet formally admitted to the Second Empire of Man.The planet of New Utah is one such place, colonized by two Mormon splinter groups from another Empire world, and then also populated by religious groups from a variety of other places. Still, there’s a lot of open space on a planet, and the humans who have been on New Utah for only a few generations don’t all know what’s going on everywhere

The book is pretty well written, especially if it is a first novel. There are a few nagging misspellings and other editing errors that another careful reading would have cleaned out, but nothing that detracts from the story. The main characters are pretty well drawn, even though there are quite a few and at first it’s difficult to keep them straight.

I’d hate to give the story line away too much. I will tell you this – the story not only connects with “The Gripping Hand,” the sequel to “Mote,” (it takes place shortly after the events in that book), but to the events in “Mote” as well. It adds depth to the universe created by Niven and Pournelle the Elder and opens the possibility for more books to come, without this one being a cliff-hanger.

"Outies" cover illustration

The book is only available electronically. Right now it’s only available for B&N Nook and for Kindle, but you can use the Kindle version on a variety of platforms, so that shouldn’t be that much of a problem.I don’t doubt it will be available on print-on-demand eventually through Amazon as well. I’ve purchased several POD books through Amazon over the last year or so and the quality is very good. Any problems I’ve noted came from the original source document, not from the printing process.

By the way, I like the iPhone version of the Kindle app a lot better than the Nook app right now, and on the iPad I think it’s every bit as good as Apple’s iBook app, and searching for content is far easier.

If you’ve never read the other two books, I recommend you read them first, in the original order. “Mote” is not a short book, but as I said, it is considered one of the definitive First Contact novels, if not THE definitive one – even Robert A. Heinlein said so! There is an essay Niven and Pournelle wrote called “Building ‘The Mote in God’s Eye'” that can be found in Larry Niven’s short story collection “N-Space.” In it they explain how they created the Moties, and how the Motie biology dictated much of the plot of the story. They even talk about how a model kit of a fictional spaceship, the Leif Ericsson, was used as a starting point for the INS MacArthur in the book.

Chris Doll's magnificent "MacArthur" scratchbuilt model

As I said, it’s a deep and rich universe. The Second Empire of Man is a part of Jerry Niven’s future history series, which includes many of his novels describing the time leading up to the First Empire of Man. It’s all worth reading, but you don’t need to read all those to get the storyline of these books. “Mote,” “Hand,” and “Outies” work together very well to give you a very satisfying picture of a spacefaring civilization by the best hard-science fiction writing team (and now, daughter) in the business. The book, like the two before it, is very much recommended.

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One comment

  1. […] Oh, and go buy Outies. And if you haven’t, buy the other Mote books of Niven and Pournelle and read them first. Details are in my review. […]



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